Month: March 2015

Cats, Dogs, and the Scales of Justice

Scales of Justice from Google ImagesI never would have guessed my dog had a dark side. The cat, yeah. That was a no-brainer. She’s haunted our countertops from the time we took her in. But my innocent little puppy bear could do no wrong. Until the day I caught her in action.

Prior to that day, the cat always took the blame for the disappearing food phenomenon in our household. And yet she kept meowing for more. I couldn’t figure out why she was acting so hungry despite regular mealtimes and stolen side-dishes. So I decided to keep vigil. That’s when I found the true culprit.

Thing is, the dog wasn’t even remorseful when I caught her—sneaking food from the cat’s dish. Snatching entire meals from the baby’s highchair tray. Hijacking my daughter’s afternoon snack right out of her hands. No, the dog did not have her tail between her legs when caught red-pawed. She just looked at me with those brown teddy bear eyes, licked her furry lips, and wagged her tail as if to say, “Yum.”

There’s no question I love my dog. BUT I also love my kids and my cat. It wasn’t fair for them to starve while the dog had her fill. I had to take action. If caught food-snatching, she’d get a time-out in her carrier. The child safety gate became a barrier between her and every potential food venue except her own. And I had to keep her separate from the cat and kids during mealtime.

Sometimes we think of God’s judgment as unloving, but nothing could be further from the truth. Because of his love, he hates injustice and in his perfect time will take action to protect the oppressed. Tracing the roots of God’s judgments in Bible times, we find it was always directed toward injustice. How loving would it be to let injustice persist while the poor endure the burden of oppression? On a far smaller scale, how loving would it be for me to let the dog have all the food while the others I love went without?

God is a God of love, and his love is just. In his justice, he will protect the fatherless and the widow. He will stand on behalf of the oppressed. The chains of injustice will not prevail. Because there cannot be love without justice, nor justice without love.

“The Lord executes justice for the oppressed; he gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; he raises up those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous; he protects the strangers. He supports the fatherless and the widow, but He thwarts the way of the wicked.” (Psalm 146:7-9)

True Love…is JUST (Day 47, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Death of a Fairytale

Fairytale Castle from Google ImagesNewsflash. Cinderella is a fairytale. I repeat, Cinderella is a fairytale. Prince Charming does not exist. Search the whole world over, but you will not find him. Anywhere.

Fairytales are a great idea. Their ideals most often accurately represent what love should be, were this a perfect world. And Prince Charming emulates the ideal of what every man could be, were he governed by pure love. But you can wait all you want. The guy’s not gonna show up in shining armor, riding a white horse, and ready to whisk you off to some far away castle.

The unfortunate fact is that every relationship will inevitably encounter disappointment. You may have a fairytale of a beginning, but one day reality will set in. The mirage of perfection will fade. The fairytale will die. And why? Because no one this side of heaven is perfect.

It will take something infinitely more powerful than the wand of a fairy godmother to transform the ashes of disappointment into something beautiful. Perfect love is impossible in human hands. It requires divine intervention.

Mary Magdalene was a woman whose life had been reduced to ashes. Every relationship had proven to be a disappointment. The notion of a fairytale encounter was trampled beneath the feet of those who’d once promised love. Only the touch of perfect love could reach her, and it did. When she finally met the one man with power from heaven to love truly, completely, and sacrificially, her life was transformed. Because only a supernatural love has power to bring beauty from ashes.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)
“…he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair…” (Isaiah 61:3)
True Love…is LIFE-TRANSFORMING (Day 46, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

The Choice

blog_shackleschainsandfettersA life in chains is unimaginable from the vantage point of freedom. Nothing could be more horrific than to be taken by force from the life, land, and family you love. Even more inconceivable is that anyone would willingly choose a life in chains.

When faced with opposition to their desired mission among the enslaved of their time, Johann Leonard Dober and David Nitschmann asserted their willingness to become slaves themselves. If reaching slaves meant a life in chains, they would choose such a life. Their declaration? “We shall become slaves among the slaves.” The men were eventually granted passage as free men, yet still they chose to live humbly in a land of slavery to proclaim the gospel of freedom to those in bondage.

As I consider their selflessness, I have to ask myself if I’d willingly do the same. Does my love for others run deep enough that I would sacrifice my comfort and security for their freedom? These men got on a boat and traveled far to fulfill their calling. But we don’t need to get on a boat to find people in need of help, hope, love, and freedom. And we don’t have to travel far to be selfless.

As Mother Teresa once said, “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.” There are people among us who live in chains. Modern slavery is rampant in our own country. The enslaved reside in our own cities. Still, beyond that, there are people who live as slaves to fear, abuse, addiction, neglect, and more. How can we sacrifice, here and now, for the enslaved in our midst?

While the sacrifice of the Moravian missionaries was heroic beyond measure, we can follow their example of selflessness to free those in bondage right here, right now. We don’t have to wear literal chains to be enslaved to a cause. Our daily, selfless sacrifice can do more for the cause of freedom than we can ever imagine.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” (Luke 4:18-19)

True Love…is SELFLESS (Day 45, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

A Trip to Mars and other Impossible Possibilities

Blog_SpaceDo YOU have what it takes…to colonize Mars? And WOULD you willingly leave all you know to be among the first to populate another planet? Keep in mind, it’s a ONE WAY ticket. Think it’s impossible? Think again. 200,000 people signed up to take the leap into the great unknown. Eventually, four will be selected for the mind-boggling adventure. Sounds like the makings of a new reality TV show. Oh…it IS the makings of a new reality TV show. Surprise. What we once thought was impossible has now entered the realm of plausibility.

I always marvel at the amazing scientific accomplishments of man in light of our inability to conquer simple conflicts here on earth. We’re sending people to Mars…WOW. Impressive. Will Mars one day be added to the list of those with whom we war? Because I’d be far more impressed if we’d tackle the racial issues here on our own planet. Or if we put a little more effort into preventing World War III from erupting on our own soil.

These musings come as I close in on the finish of my 50-day journey into the topic of love. The adventure has proven more foreign to me than a trip to outer space. I realize how vast the topic is, and how little we humans know. Far less is our understanding of how to actually go about loving one another. And how impossible it is for us to love with a genuine, selfless love.

Greater than any mission conjured in the imaginations of man is the mission to love one another. God, who is love, says that all men have fallen short of this glorious standard to love. Looking at the aspects of love covered in the past 40-plus days, I cringe to see how far short I myself fall. How can I write about it if I’m not living it? My only response is to say that if I’m to fulfill this greatest-ever mission, I’m gonna need some divine intervention. We all are. Because true love is not only impossible. It’s supernatural.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you follow me, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” (1 John 4:7-8)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:44)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 12:8)

“For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” (Romans 3:23)

True Love…is SUPERNATURAL (Day 44#50ShadesOfTrueLove)

The Time-stopping Alarm Clock that Doesn’t Exist

Alarm Clock from Bing ImagesBehold, my greatest invention: a snooze button that actually stops time. Just press the button at, say, 6am, sleep in for another few hours, and still wake up at 6am that same day. You’ll never be late for work, school, or appointments. And you’ll never be tired again.

Okay, so the miracle snooze hasn’t been invented…yet. But if you find it does exist, please remember me on your gift list. Because there are days when I don’t feel like getting up.

Add to that list of things I don’t always feel like doing…changing another diaper, washing another dish, folding another load of laundry, ironing (ugh), picking up another room full of toys, and…you get the point. Daily life often thrives or fails based on our choice to do what we don’t feel like doing. Getting up each morning is not on option. The same applies to the multitude of other monotonous but necessary daily tasks. Even the most coveted of jobs involves a certain degree of unappealing, mundane routine.

It’s the same in love. In every relationship, there comes a point where we must choose to love. I’ve been married almost twenty years, and I know. There are days when it’s truly, madly, deeply, and days when we’ve lost that loving feeling. First-date feelings fade. Honeymoon euphoria evaporates. The daily grind drones and drains. But no relationship lasts without the determination to love at all times.

Relationships, like buildings, need a firm foundation to stand. While emotions are an integral part of life, they make for a flimsy foundation. Feelings evolve more frequently than a quick-change artist. Relationships that rely solely on sentiment are doomed to fail. True love goes beyond feelings. It’s a commitment to love someone whatever the cost, even when emotion runs dry. And the reward of endurance is deeply rich, satisfying, and lasting relationships.

True Love…Goes BEYOND FEELINGS (Day 43, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Eye Level

Parent with Child Silhouette from Bing ImagesI never imagined there’d be so many work-related hazards involved in motherhood. It’s for good reason I sit with caution when playing with my son on the floor. He doesn’t realize how strong he is. I’m usually not prepared for his impromptu body-slams and NFL-worthy tackle-hugs, not to mention all the times he’s nailed me smack between the eyes with a whiffle ball or some other unidentified flying plastic object.

Sometimes, I think it would be easier just to keep my distance. Sitting in the corner on a tall kitchen stool would be safer. Locking myself behind a child safety gate might offer some protection. Or maybe I should just invest in some football gear. A good helmet and some thick padding might lessen the potential for severe injury.

As much as I might want to shelter myself from my son’s innocent though dangerous playtime antics, I’m learning how important it is to play on his level. Sitting eye to eye with him is one small way of expressing my love. It requires humbling myself—even at the risk of getting hurt. Most often, when I engage him in this way, I’m rewarded with at least one of those tackle-hugs and a few ugga-muggas.

As I sit on the floor, eye-level with my son, I think of how God humbled himself for us. He didn’t spin the world in to motion only to leave us as orphans. He came and lived among us, dwelling among the outcasts of society—loving those the world had rejected and touching those others refused to touch. He understands our sufferings because he suffered as we do, and more—humbling himself to the point of death. And all so he could be eye-level with us…all so he could show us what true love is.

“And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death– even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8)

True Love…is HUMBLE (Day 42, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Pondering Life While Stuck in Traffic

Traffic Jam from Bing ImagesI’ve often waited in a good hour of highway traffic only to find it was due to a gapers’ delay. Miles of traffic, stretched as a crawling snake along the interstate—and all because people want to pause and look at someone else’s tragedy. What is it that draws us to the scene?

It may be that our attention is caught by the spectacle of material brevity. We see firsthand a truth long suppressed—that those things that so hold our affections could be destroyed in an instant. Beyond that is the harsh reminder of how fragile life is. We gaze at the accident site with a vague awareness it could happen to us, along with a fleeting hope we’ll be the ones to escape such a fate.

Layered beneath it all may be a degree of genuine concern. We wonder what happened, how it happened, and if those involved are okay. If we remember, we’ll check the news for updates later that day before resuming life as usual.

Our attitudes under such circumstances may translate to how we react to the tragedies we encounter in daily life. We pause, we gaze, we feel a tinge of concern…and we move on. As long as it doesn’t affect us, we’re only slightly moved, though in the end unchanged.

Love is more than gapers’ emotion. It’s not a fleeting concern or a passing feeling. It’s not drive-by sensitivity. Love doesn’t just pause. It stops. It feels deeply. And it acts.

First responders are those who demonstrate love in action—caring enough to meet the need, as in the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man lay beaten and dying on the road as people passed him by, unmoved. Only one stopped to help, investing his time, his resources, and his very life to meet the need.

God, I don’t want my love to be a fleeting emotion. I want to feel deeply, to the point I am moved to action, whatever the cost. Give me this kind of love—a true love, filled with compassion.
True Love…is COMPASSIONATE (Day 41, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)